‘Male and female he created them,’ and the game began


The professor, a strict and uncompromising moralist, followed Immanuel Kant’s thinking that any lie, told at any time for any reason — even, as the great German philosopher argued, to a potential murderer asking the whereabouts of his intended victim — is always wrong.

But the professor did make an exception the night his wife tried on a new dress and asked, “Does this make me look heavy?”

Genesis 1:27, “male and female he created them,” not only tells us God created the two genders, but implies he has been having an everlasting laugh at our expense ever since.

What else explains the intense emotional, physical and spiritual yearning between the two sexes — and the almost inevitable mutual befuddlement and frustration that comes with it?

The big band leader Artie Shaw was married eight times, each one ending in divorce or annulment. That’s a lot, even for a clarinetist, but it’s an example of how desperately many individuals are compelled to join their lives to another of the opposite sex, often despite overwhelming odds and common sense.

A high school English teacher was recently complaining to her husband about one of her classes. An enthusiastic teacher, she simply could not get this group of students engaged. Every attempt at class discussion met blank faces and yawns. The next item on the syllabus was a selection from Mark Twain’s “The Diaries of Adam and Eve,” and she was at a loss.

Thinking about their own courtship and marriage, her husband, for once, came up with a good idea: Divide the girls into small groups and instruct each group to make a list of the top 10 puzzling things about boys. Divide the boys into small groups and have them make top 10 lists of things about girls that befuddle them. Then, group by group, have them write their lists on the board.

It quickly became a lively exercise in good-natured sarcasm, gentle needling — and barely concealed awe and longing.

(The ensuing discussion on Mark Twain’s story set in the Garden of Eden went exceptionally well. The girls’ sense of vindication was palatable when they got to Twain’s assertion by Adam: “After all these years, I see I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.”)

Some Christian thinkers blame Eve for leading man to sin, considering it unimportant that the serpent is a male and that, although Eve took the first bite, she did no more than hand Adam the fruit. When God questions him, he whines, offering his own passivity as an excuse: “She gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it” (Gen 3:12). As if he was a Labrador.

And yet, how many women have tried to get their husbands to eat sensibly, only to be cavalierly ignored?

Star Herald photographer James A. McBride recalls taking a portrait years ago of a couple who had been married for decades and were participating in the annual diocesan anniversary Mass. As he was setting up the shot, the couple was seated on a sofa and the husband leaned over and lovingly asked his wife of many years, “Do you remember when we met?”

“No, and neither do you!” his wife said.

Then she told him to smile and look at the camera. He did. She did too. They were obviously happy.

Carl Peters is the managing editor of the Catholic Star Herald.